Kipple, kipple everywhere!
March 14, 2012 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I am a recovering hoarder who still has a tendency to cheer herself up with Stuff. What are some good presents or treats that won't lead to me increasing the level of kipple in my life? And how do you deal with decluttering when things feel pointless?

Sometimes I get depressed. I feel sick of the clothes I own and think a new dress will make me more fabulous. Or I get the idea for a new project and want to throw myself into it (I'm a cross-stitcher/sewer/beginning crocheter, all of which require supplies). Or I feel like a little joy snack that will cheer me up at the end of a bad week.

However, what this leads to is having less money and more Stuff. Piles of it. I'm currently house-sharing so I have to fit my life into one room (not easy by the time you get to your late 20s) and my partner says that the sheer chaos he finds when he visits makes him worry that we'll ever be able to live together harmoniously and without it being a source of stress. (My partner has helped me a lot in the past with this situation, from hiring a storage locker to get things out of my home to sitting down and going through things with me.) I'm turning 30 this year and I don't want to keep living like a teenager, even if the house-sharing situation will continue until we get our own place (I live in a very expensive city, and moving in together is A Plan, so this seems the sensible way to go about things for now.) I've been attending therapy (I have bipolar disorder) and that and reading this article about people waiting to be thin has made me think that I need to start living the way I want to now instead of waiting to have more space - to respect the space I have and make it something that makes me happy, rather than expecting that moving in with my partner will magically lead to me being tidy and happy. But there seems to be cognitive dissonance between this idea and the reality of coming home to a messy, chaotic living space.

I'm trying the usual clutter-reducing tactics: paring things down, using things up, finishing off projects/using what I have, but it's taking time and when I feel very low I don't have the motivation or even see the point of picking up the dirty washing off the floor. And it's hard sometimes to work out what I do and don't need, and deal with the guilt getting rid of stuff brings up - all things that will be familiar to those who have been in a similar situation. That's when I'm more likely to think that a shiny new thing will cheer me up. It's particularly easy to shop online if I feel this way at work, which doesn't help. And then the things arrive and I start wondering where they'll go and thinking about the money spent and it becomes a thing of guilt rather than fun. I'd like getting new things to be fun again.

So what do you do to cheer yourself up that doesn't involve accumulating more - more possessions, more projects, more to store and care for? Food is out - I'm trying to eat more healthily as snacking seems to be part of the same problem.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Nowadays when I feel the urge to go on a shopping binge, I buy MP3s or ebooks on Amazon or games on Steam. It still costs money, and I'm still accumulating, but at least things aren't filling up my house.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:30 AM on March 14, 2012

Cooking something long and complicated (for the fun of cooking it)
Going for a walk with my friend and her dogs
Going exploring odd corners of my local area.
Tidying up! It's pretty cheering when everything looks shipshape.
Listening to loud music (on headphones if necessary).
Learning about something new.
posted by emilyw at 7:43 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is what cheers me up but I suspect we are wired a bit differently--Forget accumulating things; seek out novelty and experiences. So you could spend money and acquire 20 objects including clothes, etc. OR save up that money and go on a vacation and experience something new. If you want it to cost less, get a yr subscription to a museum or theater. IF you want really low cost, go on bike rides to new neighborhoods/new routes.

This may work for you and it helped me begin to invest $. Did you buy brand new apple products when they were released (if not that, then substitute whatever object or brand it was). Now look at the stock and ask yourself (from 10 years ago): what if you had invested the $ rather than bought something right now? YMMV.
posted by Wolfster at 7:46 AM on March 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

I love the idea of using Pinterest or a blog for this, though right now I just use wish lists (which is dangerous as they hover too near to shopping carts) - but there is something nice about collecting pictures of objects (BUY ALL THE SHOES!!!) as a way to have them without owning them.

I've also had some luck with a rule that I can't get something new unless I am simultaneously getting rid of something old of equal or greater size.
posted by Mchelly at 7:48 AM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Have you considered something like a 5 day hold on new purchases? That is, feel free to spend as much time as you like online shopping. Load your shopping cart up with new stuff, and think about how you might enjoy it. But don't click the "purchase" button at the end. Instead, save your shopping cart and go about your life. Then, in 5 days, come back to the shopping cart (if you even remember it) and decide when the initial rush has worn off whether you actually want or need the new items. The shopping itself is the fun part: the dreaming of how the item will improve your life, the picking out exactly what you want. Once you've done the shopping, the buying is often superfluous.

Also, one in, one out. If you buy a new dress, you have to decide before you buy it which of your old dresses you're going to get rid of, and you have to get rid of it before the new dress can come home. Same with anything else: books, movies, projects, whatever: if a new one comes in, an old one must leave first. Before you buy a new one, you have to decide which of your old ones you're willing to never see again.
posted by decathecting at 7:51 AM on March 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

I used to have this problem with books.
I couldn't enter a new or used bookstore without making a purchase.
I had to make up a mantra - "Books are not trophies."
That, and as you say, I was spending a ton of money on THINGS.

Now that I used my library even more, and have given away most of my books, I now focus on paying down that debt and if I'm going to make a purchase, I focus on buying MEMORIES instead of STUFF.

Memories, Not Stuff.

Make that YOUR new mantra :)
posted by THAT William Mize at 7:51 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Spa Day!
posted by blurker at 7:57 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was expecting 'kipple' to link to this recent episode of Back to Work, where Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin talk about a William Morris quote: "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

My cheering-up favourites:
- I go for a swim, regularly to keep my mood up and extra times when I need a lift.
- I take myself on a date for conveyor belt sushi, if I have the money. The litte coloured dishes and pretty food make me happy and it's so phased that I don't tend to overeat/-spend.
- Walking by the sea or up the mountains or in a park. It sounds dumb but every time I go alone or with my boyfriend, my main thought is "damn, this is really nice."
- Free museums, maybe just to visit one favourite room or piece like I'm going to see a friend.
- Lying on my bed listening to podcasts with my eyes closed. I'm always short on rest and this is like an animated nap.
- Getting rid of stuff. I'm nearly thirty and in a shared house, and I'm just tired of having so much to move. It's an ongoing project now that isn't stressful, so if a friend calls to say they're running late, I used that half-hour to do a quick wardrobe purge, or I keep a running list of things to put on eBay when I have the time to deal with that. This makes me SO HAPPY. I haven't remotely made a profit but I have relieved myself of so many never-to-be-finished projects, old hobbies, duplicates of things, whatever.
- Saving. Even less exciting-sounding but I put the eBay money and a little every month into a separate account. I'm in debt and earning very little, but it makes me feel so much better to have a couple of months' rent there as either an emergency fund or a holiday fund, depending on my fortunes.

In short, I'm a very boring person, and solving the actual things making me sad (in tiny, tiny increments) is turning out to be the best way of cheering up.
posted by carbide at 8:10 AM on March 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

You like clothes and you sew, so why not make over something you already have in your wardrobe.

Even something relatively simple like shortening a skirt could be enough to get you through the tough time and it not only won't cost anything, it could be useful. If you spend your time tailoring your existing wardrobe you'll still be ending up with better clothes.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:11 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hair highlights!!
It's a splurge, something I don't normally do, but it's a sunny and reviving treat for the darkest days of late winter. Fortunately I have medium/dark blonde hair, so lightish blonde highlights don't look look ridiculous half grown out. Otherwise it would turn into a necessity (must get roots recolored!!!) instead of an optional treat.

Also (you have to be of a particular mindset for this to work, don't know if it'll resonate with you at all), a reward medal. Set aside a moderate sum of money, more than you'd spend on "junk" clothes/accessories, and shop for a piece of jewelry. A really appealing necklace/bracelet/ring/earrings whatever. Keep shopping until you fall in love. It should be something that you can imagine wearing to work or for fun, and with a fairly wide variety of clothes. Now IF you do what you need to today, you get to wear this tomorrow. It's your gold star. It's your medal of achievement. It's the carrot that you get when you really need it, but only because you can't have it under other circumstances - yet magically, it's the same carrot every time, you don't have keep buying new ones.
posted by aimedwander at 8:34 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a similar problem with clutter. I tried a bunch of approaches that didn't work (and they weren't bad approaches! They just didn't for me), which you can probably find in other AskMe posts. What did finally work for me was making a rule that right after I get home from work, I set a timer for ten minutes and do *something* to tidy up the house. Doesn't matter what it is or how much it accomplishes in the grand scheme of things, but I have to come up with something to organize or dust or put away for ten minutes. And once you've done your ten minutes? You don't have to worry about the clutter, because you've done your ten minutes for the day. After just a couple of months it's made a huge difference in my house, and I've taken tons of stuff to goodwill.

Like I said, there a lot ideas in the archives for ways to approach the clutter itself, and you may have to try a few to find one that fits you. It worked for me because ten minutes just felt "doable" until I it enough done that I could really see a difference in things. (And it's actually surprising how much stuff you can get through in that small amount of time.)
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:39 AM on March 14, 2012 [9 favorites]

I don't want to encourage you to replace buying things with buying things, but when I am feeling a little down (or a little up!) and want to give myself a little zing, I go to my local natural foods co-op and wander the aisles, trying new things and spending a lot of dawdling time.

The key is that if I buy things, they're consumable. Like, really consumable (not frozen or canned or things I can hide away in the back of the fridge).
posted by Madamina at 8:43 AM on March 14, 2012

I found that "purchasing" free things through Amazon such as mp3's and ebooks helps to decrease my spending A LOT and I also have bipolar so I can get into a lot of trouble with hypomanic spending sprees. Also, as decathecting suggested putting a hold on your online purchases is a good idea. Load up your cart with new pretties, then come back in a couple of days (when you've had time to think, "Do I have the room/money for these things?") and either buy them or remove them from your cart.

I've actually gone on hypomanic shopping trips through deparment stores and loaded up my cart (literally) and then and put everything back that I really didn't need/ couldn't afford (which is usually everything). It purges the need to "shop" but doesn't spend the rent, plus, it's a bit of exercise. heh. Anyway, it works for me.

Carbite's quote: "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" is something of a mantra for me now too. I generally don't buy anything I can't use, even if it is beautiful (because most of the clutter I used to have was beautiful, right?)
posted by patheral at 9:28 AM on March 14, 2012

I think the key is going to find another activity that produces the dopamine hit you get from buying. Exercise can do this for most; we also get a dopamine hit when playing games (table top, card, or video), participating in an activity that you feel competent in, or (for me) crossing something nasty off of my to-do list. Good luck!
posted by smirkette at 9:42 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seriously, watching the TV program Hoarders has helped me manage my "stuff" issues tremendously. When I hear these people who have so massively fucked up their lives saying the kind of thing I used to say about adding yet another black sweater to my collection of millions, or another bound set of some obscure 19th-century novelist's works to my overloaded bookshelves, it is like a salutary dash of cold water in the face.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:54 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

You've probably seen it in other threads, it's worth saying again: FlyLady. It's not just that she's broken the skills and routine down into little tiny bits, it's that she openly addresses the guilt and shame and stuff-soothing and hopelessness. Ignore the cutesy/religious overtones if those are not your bag; some people really need that in their mix but if you don't it's fine, the substance is all still there.

Start right here at the beginning. Just try it and see. My house would still make my mother need to sit down and have a drink, but doing about 3 months of FlyLady fundamentally changed my magical-thinking ignore-it-and-you'll-stop-seeing-it shit-piled-up losing-my-keys-every-day life. I regularly have people over, that's how much difference it made.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:59 AM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

If FlyLady is too, uh, not to your sensibilities, I've been enjoying Unfuck your Habitat, which someone here described as "FlyLady with swears".
posted by mendel at 10:30 AM on March 14, 2012 [11 favorites]

"There’s a weird sort of void in the “taking care of your physical surroundings” stuff, in the archaic “how to keep a home” and “how to be domestic” arenas. It tends to ignore single people, or people without kids, or students, or people with pets, or people with roommates, or people with full-time jobs, or classes, or other shit going on. It assumes everyone is married with kids and one partner is around a lot of the time, and has a lot of time to devote to “housekeeping.” Well, we don’t all live that life. Very few of us do. "

This is the issue with Flylady. It seemed aimed at housewives with an actual house to take care of. Unfuck Your Habitat looks more useful to the rest of us. I don't need to 'shine my sink' every day, nor do I want to be lectured about 'body clutter'.
posted by mippy at 11:07 AM on March 14, 2012

Would it scratch your itch to buy something for somebody else? Like cat toys for the kitties at the animal shelter or work clothes for women turning their lives around through the various programs that help with that?
posted by lakeroon at 11:10 AM on March 14, 2012

I decide how much I'm willing to spend to cheer myself up ("is this a $5 funk, or a $20 pity-fest?") then I log into online banking and transfer that amount of money to my savings account.

Then I look at the increasing balance in my savings account, and pat myself on the back SO HARD. Look at all the money I haven't spent! All the $5s and $20s add up fast. And they add up to big amounts, too. A new computer, a new car, down payment on a house, a wedding, an iPad, a vacation... the uses for that money are literally limitless.

It may not be the short happy thrill of New Stuff. But it's a more satisfying thrill of knowing I've made the right decision. It's a more robust, long-lasting form of validation.

I also recommend saving up those 5s and 20s and using them for personal grooming... facials, mani-pedi, hair cut, professional hair coloring, etc.

So many people discount their own personal value, saying "Oh, I'm not worth $80 for a professional stylist to put highlights in my hair." But we'll drop that much in craft supplies in a month. Having a great haircut and nicely manicured nails makes you feel genuinely better about yourself. You're worth it!!!
posted by ErikaB at 2:05 PM on March 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

1. Remind yourself of your goal: an organized, functioning life.
2. Will buying whatever(clothing, knick-knacks, etc) take me closer to my goal, or move me away from it?
3. ok. how can I feel better? I will pick up 1 square foot of my room. Then I will put 1 dollar in my splurge fund.
4. surf the net looking for cool stuff I will splurge on. Go clean up 1 more square foot. 1 more dollar. post pictures of stuff to pinterest.
5. Hey look, a little cleared out area. Yay. put a star on the calendar because you made progress towards your goal.

When you're tempted to spend, remind yourself of how great the goal will feel. When you splurge, go to Goodwill or the Dollar Store and look around. If you really want that stuff, fine. Over time, the pleasure of getting to your goal may overtake the comfort of buying stuff. Forgive yourself when you backslide, and and recognize your progress.
posted by theora55 at 5:25 PM on March 15, 2012

The opposite of consuming is producing. It's hard to just reduce consuming, unless at the same time you increase producing.

Learn to create!
posted by powerbumpkin at 1:24 AM on April 3, 2012

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